Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Where Antarctic Predatory Seabirds Overwinter

02.12.2011
Polar-Ornithologists of Jena University explain flight routes of skuas with international team

When it comes to choosing their wintering destinations Antarctic skuas are flexible. This is shown in a study of an international research team led by the polar-ornithologist Dr. Hans-Ulrich Peter from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany). According to the study, a great part of the South Polar skuas spend the Antarctic winter in the Northern Atlantic. At the same time about one third of the same species overwinters in the Northern Pacific, tens of thousands of miles away.


South Polar skua with geolocator (right leg).
Photo: Matthias Kopp/FSU

In order to identify the flight routes of the birds, postgraduate Matthias Kopp, under the guidance of Dr. Peter, equipped South Polar skuas with geolocators in their breeding areas on King George Island, about 120 kilometers off the Antarctic Mainland. Thus he has been screening their position data over a period of several years, followed by an analysis together with British colleagues and a scientist from Switzerland. “With the help of these data we can now for the first time definitely say that the South Polar skuas are not overwintering, like their close relatives, the brown skuas, off the Argentine coast but mainly in the northern hemisphere”, explains the head of research, Dr. Peter. So far the scientists could only speculate about where the birds overwinter and which routes they are heading for. “The observation of single birds led us to the assumption that they overwinter in the Atlantic. But so far it wasn’t known that a great part of them stay as well in the middle of the Northern Pacific in the winter”, says the Jena scientist who has been researching in Antarctica since 1983 on a regular basis.

No matter, which ocean the birds are heading towards for overwintering, their flight routes show remarkable similarities. Thus the flight routes from the north and the return travel to the south are always shaped like a slip knot crossing on the equator. On both flights together the birds showed a big figure-of-eight flight pattern. At first the skuas which are overwintering in the Atlantic fly on a wide corridor northwards along the east coast of South America, and then change direction after having passed the equator and head towards the northwest. At the end of May they arrive at their destination in the Northern Atlantic. In the three months they spent on the open sea they wander along with the wind and the ocean current for more than 1,000 kilometers in a eastward direction, before they start their return flight in end-August. Before arriving at their breeding sites on King George Island they have a stop-over. For up to three weeks the birds are resting off the Patagonian coast and refill their body reserves.

The flight route into the North Pacific leads at first along the coast of South America and then changes direction towards the northwest above the equator. In mid-May, two weeks earlier than their conspecifics overwintering in the Atlantic, the skuas arrive at their winter quarters in the Pacific. These animals too, let themselves drift along with the wind and the waves up to 3,000 kilometers eastwards. Their way back leads them in a wide curve in a southwestern direction towards New Zealand and finally turns in a southeasterly direction into Antarctica. There, they are resting for a few days as well before they return to their breeding site. “We think that the animals need this resting phase to recover from the strain of the long trip through the tropics where food is scarce”, Dr. Peter says.

Once the skuas have decided on an ocean for a winter quarter, they will head towards the same destination in the following years as well. Until now the scientists didn’t know the ultimate reason for the animals’ decision on one particular direction. ”We know for sure though that the animals get their own bearings and don’t learn the route from their parents”, Dr. Peter says. And so for him and his colleagues some questions still remain unanswered. Therefore the Jena scientist will leave for a research trip to Antarctica this year – 100 years after Roald Amundsen, the first person ever to reach the South Pole. Two of Dr. Peter’s students are already on site and have captured the first Skuas. For Hans-Ulrich Peter it is he 22th expedition to the world’s most southern continent.

Contact:
Dr. Hans-Ulrich Peter
Institute of Ecology
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Dornburger Str. 159, D-07743 Jena, Germany
phone: ++49 3641 949415
email: Hans-Ulrich.Peter[at]uni-jena.de

Dr. Ute Schönfelder | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-jena.de/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>